Don’t wait to seek help

In recent years, hydro prices have spiralled out of control unnecessarily as a result of irresponsible government decisions.
Since being elected, I have pushed—and continue to fight—for significant changes that once again will make this essential service affordable for families, seniors, and businesses in the north.
I will continue to raise this important issue with Premier-elect Wynne, who has not yet given a clear indication if it will be a priority for her government.
As with any legislative change, formal action will take time. It is for that reason I want to provide an overview of some of the steps you can take, and the services my office provides, if you find yourself falling behind on your hydro bill or struggling to pay a hefty security deposit.
In all cases, it is important to remember that while the decision to work out a payment plan or to reduce security deposits is solely at the discretion of the electricity company, there are many steps you can take to help increase the chances of success and get back on track.
The first—and most important—step is acting in good faith. If you are going to be late or miss a payment, call the company to let them know. Explain the circumstances that have led to the current problems and be open to suggestions they may have that can help alleviate the situation.
If you are unable to pay in full, pay something—even if it’s just $20 or $50. This shows good faith on your part and often will be used to determine if the company will show good faith to you.
In addition to showing good faith, you should not wait until you receive a disconnection notice to contact the company or my office. Never assume that the utility cannot cut you off in the winter months—that prohibition expired in March, 2003.
Acting before you receive a disconnection notice shows you are serious about fixing the problem, whether it’s talking to the company or my office.
We sometimes can prevent an imminent disconnection, but those situations are rare and almost impossible if a customer has not acted in good faith before the disconnection notice was sent out.
If you are in a situation where you have to enter into a payment plan or make arrangements with the company for payment in full, never commit to something you cannot live up to.
It is rare for any company to give second chances—let alone third and fourth chances. The worst thing you can do at that point is to make payment arrangements and not honour them.
While some programs are in place that can assist individuals who have fallen behind on their bills, access to these programs is very limited and difficult to obtain, with some funds only being available for one or two months before their annual budgets are exhausted.
As always, the best option is to act early and make the right decisions before a problem spirals out of control—and never hesitate to contact my office for assistance.